Rusty right man for job
David Cuffley Matchwinner Darel Russell justified manager Bryan Gunn's big selection decision last night as he re-ignited Norwich City's fight against relegation.Russell was recalled in midfield after two matches on the bench in place of axed skipper Mark Fotheringham and he responded with the only goal after 68 minutes at Queens Park Rangers as the Canaries chalked up their first win in eight Championship games.
Matchwinner Darel Russell justified manager Bryan Gunn's big selection decision last night as he re-ignited Norwich City's fight against relegation.
Russell was recalled in midfield after two matches on the bench in place of axed skipper Mark Fotheringham and he responded with the only goal after 68 minutes at Queens Park Rangers as the Canaries chalked up their first win in eight Championship games.
They remain second from bottom of the table with 10 matches to play, thanks to Southampton's 3-0 win at Ipswich, but now go into Saturday's trip to Blackpool with renewed hope. A win at Bloomfield Road would at least put Gunn's team above Blackpool on goal difference from the same number of games, dragging another club into the danger zone.
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Russell's fourth goal of the season and jubilant celebration thrilled City's noisy travelling fans on a wet and windswept night at Loftus Road.
“That's Darel,” said Gunn. “Darel's had a few knocks as he's come through the season. He's been in and out of the team but I decided he was the right man for the job tonight and when somebody produces a performance like that and finishes it off with a goal, it justifies his place in the team. I hope he can take confidence from that and I hope the team will as well.
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“Darel has shown character and his was only one of 12 performances out there. We asked the players to do specific jobs and they carried them out to a man. If we are going to succeed in our mission, we are going to have to have more of those performances, both home and away.
“What they gave us tonight is what we'll expect for the rest of the season now.
“It was a horrible night and it takes character and commitment to come out here and put a performance on, and in front of great travelling support. I must say they got right behind the team from the first minute and they kept going to the 93rd minute and that was important for us because some people have written us off - but those travelling fans haven't.”
Russell said the awful weather meant it was a night for substance rather than style.
He said: “We are usually a team that go out and try to play football and are not so good on the battling side of things, but it was almost impossible to play football on that pitch, especially with the conditions. We were called upon to battle first rather than play football and from that point of view against such a big side as QPR, I think we did fantastically. Where we are in the league, it's exactly what we need.
“It was fantastic to keep a clean sheet. I think if we came away with a draw it would have been a good result but we've managed to nick that goal. It's the perfect result for us.
“I think whoever got the goal today it would have been massive, because we battled so hard. Whoever scored, it meant a lot. It was a comfortable feeling once we were a goal ahead. We felt solid enough not to concede.”
Russell's goal came when he fired home from Wes Hoolahan's cross after Lee Croft had worried the ball away from Hoolahan's former Blackpool team-mate, defender Kaspars Gorkss.
Said Gunn: “There were a lot of balls flying across the penalty boxes at both ends, then we took advantage of, I suppose, one of those moments where mistakes will happen. Our closing down was fantastic and to see Darel finish that one off was just what he deserved.”